EASTPORT, Maine — Residents of three municipalities in Washington County are invited to gather to talk about what they might be able to do with a donation of $1,000 to make a difference in their communities.
Eastport, Lubec and Milbridge have been selected to take part in Making Headway in Your Community, a joint community development program organized by GrowSmart Maine and the Maine Downtown Center at the Maine Development Foundation, said Anne Ball, project consultant.
The process begins with a showing of the 30-minute film “Reviving Freedom Mill,” which tells the story of Tony Grassi taking an abandoned gristmill in Freedom and turning it into a community center with a restaurant and school.
“We serve popcorn,” said Ball. “You know, we’re trying to make it fun.”
After the film, involved residents will talk about smaller projects they would like to see done to improve their communities. This part of the process, called a “community conversation,” includes live keypad polling so the audience can vote on a project to actually undertake, said Ball.
The Elmina B. Sewall Foundation and Maine Community Foundation are offering up to $1,000 to each group of residents to help fund the projects. The residents will have to come up with matching funds, Ball said.
The projects obviously won’t be on the grand scale of the Freedom Mill redevelopment, but the film about that project is designed to inspire participants to come up with ideas for their area.
“There’s no question it’s a small amount of money, but the impact is great,” said Ball of the $1,000 donation. “Baby steps are what get the process going.”
The organizations recently went through the process with the towns of Livermore and Livermore Falls in Androscoggin County, where 30 to 50 people attended each meeting, Ball said.
Livermore residents opted to put a roof on a community building and came up with the matching money through fundraising. Livermore Falls residents added signage to a trail system and obtained matching funds through a credit union donation.
“It was really a cool process,” Ball said.
Participating communities were chosen because they showed a “certain level of readiness” to take on improvement projects, she said.
Ball stressed that the municipalities are not officially involved. Officials can attend and participate but it will be the residents’ decision and the community’s project.
Lubec Town Administrator John Sutherland expressed support for the project and plans to attend the meeting there.
“I think that meeting definitely has some merit and I do look forward to those discussions,” said Sutherland.
He said the process and whatever project is chosen should have a positive impact on the community.
Eastport City Manager Elaine Abbott agreed.
“I’m very excited to see how this progresses,” she said. “I really hope the residents of Eastport get involved in this process … [and] decide on something meant just for them.”
Eastport residents are invited to see the film 5-7 p.m. Jan. 25 in the Port Authority meeting room at 141 Water St. The community conversation will take place 5-7 p.m. Feb. 15 at the same location.
Milbridge residents are invited to see the film 5-7 p.m. Jan. 26 at Mano en Mano at 2 Maple St. The community conversation will take place 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Feb 17 at the same location.
The film will be shown and the community conversation held in Lubec on the same day — 5-8 p.m. Feb. 17 at the Lubec Consolidated School, 44 South St.